Controller of Budget says counties prioritising salaries over development

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Office of the Controller of Budget has flagged the low rate of development across the 47 counties attributing it to dwindling national revenue.

According to the national and county governments budget implementation review report for the third- quarter of the 2022/2023, county governments are now being forced to prioritize payment of salaries at the expense of development.

The report released by the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o on Wednesday, explained that development in counties was at an all-time low, highlighting that out of the Sh239.7 billion released to counties in the last nine months, only Sh29.7 billion (12 per cent) was spent on development.

Nyakang'o disclosed that out of the funds channelled to devolved units, Sh135.8 billion had been directed towards payment of salaries while Sh74.09 billion was expended on maintenance and operations.

Lamu, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties were also flagged as being the lowest spenders on development at Sh2.15 billion, Sh2.79 billion and Sh2.89 billion respectively for the period under review.

The report further observed that a decline in own-source revenue collections by county governments had also exacerbated the situation.

On the flip side, Nairobi, Turkana and Kiambu counties are the biggest spenders at Sh17.32 billion, Sh10.04 billion and Sh8.83 billion respectively.

Speaking during the launch of the report, the Controller of Budget noted that a delay in the release of funds by the exchequer led to the devolved units addressing their most demanding problems which in their case were salaries.

"Due to the delay in the release of funds, the counties are unable to implement their development budgets and instead choose to redirect the same towards salary payment. This, however, leads to low development," said Nyakang'o.

She defended delayed disbursement by the National Treasury saying that it was only able to release what was in the country's purse.

"The National Treasury cannot release what it does not have. They only release what is available," she said.

Nyakang'o also urged the counties to implement measures to scale up own-source revenue collection which, according to the report, have taken a plunge in the period under review.

The Controller of Budget further implored the county chiefs to set realistic budget revenue targets and avoid a pile up of pending bills.

"Pending bills accrued in counties stood at Sh159.73 as at March 31, 2023. Nairobi accounted for Sh102.81 billion, Wajir Sh5.38 billion, Kiambu Sh5.33 billion and Mombasa Sh4.91 billion," read the report in part.

At the same time, the Office of the Controller of Budget has revealed that 22 counties are trailing in own-source revenue collections.

They are Nakuru, Murang'a, Kericho, Vihiga, Nyamira, Kwale, Embu, Kisumu and Kakamega counties.

Others are Taita-Taveta, Wajir, Makueni, Tharaka-Nithi, Busia, Homa Bay, Kisii, Kajiado, Nairobi, Garissa, Tana River, Nandi and Mandera counties.